Ray Washington Should Remain as Sheriff  

Wayne County Sheriff Ray Washington has been on the job for more than a year and stepped into the position after his predecessor’s untimely death to COVID-19.  

In his endorsement editorial board interview with Michigan Chronicle, Sheriff Washington discusses his readiness for the role following the late Sheriff Benny Napoleon’s death, his career experience, combating crime, addressing jail staffing issues, and bridging relations with the Black community and law enforcement. 

Washington oversees three jail facilities, Road Patrol, a Marine Unit, a Mounted Unit, and other law enforcement activities in collaboration with the 43 cities and townships in his jurisdiction which covers 673 square miles. 

Washington believes this moment of his career has come full circle. He began his law enforcement journey as a recruiter for the Wayne County Sheriff’s department at 23-years-old.  

He signed up to become a member of the Detroit Police department in 1978, however layoffs at time kept him away from the agency’s force. He was hired in 1983 where joined the jail division of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. 

Before-long, Washington was called back by DPD in 1985 and after 14 years would realize the necessity to be elevated within the department. 

“I was having so much fun protecting and serving as a police officer, what stood out was I needed to start getting promoted so I could be in a position to lead,” said Sherriff Washington. 

He has enjoyed a wide-ranging field of work, including as a patrol officer, investigative officer which included the Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Traffic Enforcement and Gang Squad divisions. 

He would be promoted to sergeant in 1999 and then lieutenant in 2001 after studying and testing for the positions and later serving in an executive role leading whole units of a department. He says he always wanted to be a public servant and believes his experience has prepared him to take on the next full term as Wayne County Sheriff. 

“I prepared myself to be a leader and I think these advancements in DPD and in the Sherriff’s office is what makes we ready to fulfill this duty.” 

Washington comes into the positions after an emotional blow to the agency following the death of Sheriff Napoleon. It was shocking and sad news for the office and area law enforcement. Washington serving as Deputy Sherriff felt the stunning loss of his dear friend and colleague, but also understood importance of stepping up to lead during what was a difficult time for the agency. 

As someone who vacationed with my brother, someone who enjoyed dinner dates with our families, it was very emotional. While I was grieving, I still had to jump in and continue his legacy while I built my own.” 

From the beginning, the job included building up morale amongst sheriff deputies and tackling the day-to-day operations such as COVID-19, jail staffing issues, etc. 

“While we were grieving, I brought my team in and said we got to do this as a team. I don’t work on a island to do this myself. I showed my team who I am as a leader but importance of working to together because public safety is paramount.” 

As it relates to public safety, we wanted to understand his position on combating violent crime and working with area law enforcement agencies to do so. He touted the relationship between his office and others alike aren’t just partnerships he will produce if elected to full term, but they are relationships that are already being fostered.  

“Our office and Detroit Police are doing things already on the weekend in downtown and in the neighborhoods to help combat violent crime. We have met and planned to get things done as a team. There are staffing shortages in law enforcement across the country so we understand we can’t do things alone, we must partner.” 

Washington took the time to tout his office’s program, ‘Sheriff Community Outreach Urban Team, (SCOUT)’ which “goes into neighborhoods and handle quality of life issues (such as drag racing, loiters) while Detroit Police handles the assault of crimes which must be handled”. 

Simply put, locking people up for their alleged and convicted crimes is a part of his job. But, in an environment of staff shortages, this work hasn’t been simple. We wanted to learn more on how his department was tackling this issue which Sherriff Washington responded to his departments robust recruiting efforts and revamped application process. 

“We’ve come up with ne ways to engage, …young people get to come up and scan a QR code with their phones to access the application and now they fill-out a two-page document to get their careers started in law enforcement.” 

Washington said the agency once had a 12-page document for applicants to fill-out, which “didn’t make sense” to him, understanding he need to get candidates on-board quicker. 

“If the pandemic taught us one thing, you can pivot and get things done is an more efficient manner”. 

Amid the national unrest following the police involved death of George Floyd and the increased lack of trust toward police by the Black community, we wanted to understand his perspective as a Black man working in the law enforcement profession. 

“As a Black man, this is serious to me. I think we have to earn the trust back and law enforcement has to do that all over. People are disenchanted by the things they’ve seen. Law enforcement gets it wrong sometimes and we have to call wrong, wrong and right, right.” 

Sheriff Washington touted his office’s inaugural Citizens Academy, a five-week tutorial for citizens to understand everything about the department and then become ambassadors for the Sheriff’s office. 

“As a society, we teach our young people how to drive, but they also need to know the law during a traffic stop.” Washington believes this program and inside perspective will help the community understand a law enforcement officer’s judgement and help build better relations. 

Sheriff Washington’s readiness to step in and lead during such a difficult time, his extensive career experience, and bridging relations with community and law enforcement are reasons why we believe Washington has met and exceeded the bar to be elected a full term and continue as Sheriff of Wayne County, Michigan. 

Sheriff Washington is a proud graduate of the public school system and a graduate of Cleary University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Management. He is also a graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s School of Police Staff and Command. Graduating from the National FBI Academy Session 248, Sheriff Washington has also earned an Executive Certificate at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School in State and Local Government. 



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